Alzheimer’s occurs at different rates among different demographic groups. Women are more likely to have the illness than men, as are black and Hispanic people compared to white people. Educational attainment also appears to be an important driver in the likelihood an individual will develop the disease.
“The higher a person’s educational attainment, the lower their risk of developing dementia,” Fargo said. “The scientific community usually puts it under the umbrella of something called cognitive reserve … the more you use your brain actively throughout life … the better off you’re going to be.” This, Fargo noted, extends beyond how far someone got in school, but into how much they used their brain throughout life.
Still, the primary driver in the differences between states in both the prevalence of the disease and the expected growth rate is age. Alzheimer’s is much more common among the elderly and increases in likelihood as one gets older. “If you look at Nevada and Arizona, those are places where people go to retire. So you have a lot of older people in those states,” explained Fargo. Nevada and Arizona are each among the three states with the highest expected increase in Alzheimer’s cases.
The number of residents 65 and over nationwide is projected to increase by 23.9% between 2018 and 2025, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s WONDER data set. In all but one of the 20 states with the highest expected increases in Alzheimer’s, the population of seniors is expected to increase at a higher than average rate. In Nevada and Arizona, the population of 65 and older residents is projected to grow by 36.4% and 41.3% respectively.
Alzheimer’s is not the most common disease affecting the elderly, but it is the most expensive. In 2018, the country spent $277 billion in care for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and that figure is expected to increase to over $1 trillion by 2050. The high costs, explained Fargo, are “because the disease is slow, and because it results in so much disability, virtually everyone with the disability is going to end up in a nursing home for a number of years, which is quite expensive.”
In many of the states where Alzheimer’s is expected to grow the most, Medicaid costs for the disease — Medicaid and Medicare account for about two-thirds of spending on care for the disease — are expected to grow by well over 40%, and in one case over 60%. In states where the disease will grow at a slower rate, costs are projected to rise between 15% and 30%.
To determine the states where Alzheimer’s is soaring, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the projected increase in the number of Americans 65 and older with Alzheimer’s between 2018-2025 in every state from the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report. The share of the population that is 65 years or older in each state came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. Projections for growth in populations 65 and over came from the Centers for Disease Control’s WONDER data set. The average retirement income by state comes from the ACS. The share of 65 and over residents in good health came from the CDC’s Healthy Aging data set, and is for 2016.